Bread and Butter Pickles

I was just commenting to a friend the other day that I am able to show love for someone best with giving them my time. For my mom, if I had to guess, it would probably be the same. Her love is mostly measured by her time in the kitchen. An avid maker, doer and shaker, we have much to learn from women like her.

Today, her birthday, is a perfect time to remember her and pay homage to the time she has spent on me and all her loved ones.

In the middle of Cochabamba
I am reminded of you
bread and butter pickles
como entrada
What a surprise!

From a relative’s recipe
scrawled in ubiquitous Ford handwriting
the circular section of the cursive “l’s”, “q’s”, and “g’s”
are long and slender like great-grandma’s fingers
The cucumbers lay waiting in the garden
with white bellies face down
protected from the harsh sun
smooth yet bumpy to the touch
You gather them in a bucket casually
then cut the green vegetables thin
with a newly sharpened blade
onion slivers follow
slender as the last phase of the waning moon
salt, sugar, vinegar
celery and mustard seeds
sprinkled into a Mason jar
like a snow globe

My frenzy in the kitchen
directly contradicts your
calculated and anticipatory approach
NPR is my mother’s soundtrack
as she moves through
different stages of myriad dishes
Her hands work in concert with
a recipe as if she were reading
a piece of music
her cookbook the sheet music
the counter her music stand
her inspiration:
anything she tries and likes
She travels the world
retraces her roots
remembers her ancestors
respects the land
all in a movement of love.

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April sensible

April first is April Fool’s Day and the first day of National Poetry Month. It is also the day my mom’s birthday falls. One of the things that characterizes my mom is sensibility. Craft is another good way to describe her and hopefully here are some prose that help honor the things about her that stand out to me as memorable and as noteworthy aspects of her persona.

Groggily I make my way down the stairs, through the living room and into the kitchen

Mom is stirring “Bupee (sp?) de Mabele” on the stove and I make a typical teenage “that’s nasty” face.

She chuckles and puts on the lid for the porridge made out of sorghum and who-knows-what else to simmer and cook.

AFT2_Mabele-porridge

Her blue alpargatas, or house-shoes shuffle through the kitchen.

Dressed in faded navy sweat pants, a free T-shirt from a Mennonite event in which the shirt is the only thing you get for volunteering your service, and a flannel over top it all, she has supplies lined out on the counter to make lunches.

Four a day.

Turkey sandwiches with lettuce, mayo (for everyone except for Dad), mustard, cheese.

For me, she separates the tomatoes, when they are in season, in a little Tupperware so the sandwich doesn’t get soggy.

The little baggies she uses for the carrots that she washes, scrapes, and cuts lengthwise, are a yellowy-orange because she re-uses them.

Sometimes I “accidentally” throw my lunch baggies away so my friends at lunchtime won’t see that my little bags are dirty.

“Where are your little baggies, Rachel?” she asks innocently.

“I don’t know,” I respond, annoyed that she would make me use something again. Doesn’t she know that I have an image to keep up.

My favorite part of the lunch, two oatmeal chocolate-chip walnut cookies. A sensible size, of course. She makes these cookies a few times a month. One of the only sweets she allows into the house.

Sometimes, if she makes the cookies on the weekend. I drink mate with her and help mix up the dough and try to make the cookies bigger in size.

“Those are too big!” she says to me aghast.

And I just smile saying, “I like them this big.”

Sometimes she takes parts of the cookies I’ve made and puts them back into the bowl before they go into the oven. Other times she lets me have it my way.

****

Today I stand in front of my own stove-top and stir the oatmeal for my morning breakfast. I look down at my outfit and I have on

some navy sweat pants, not yet faded.

a T-shirt that I got a from a Mennonite grab bag that says “In Harmony with God and Nature” from a Mennonite camp called Camp Amigo

and some “alpargatas” that I got from my last trip to Argentina that have been donned my house-shoes.